‘X’ The Unknown (The Writing Theory)

I must begin with an apology.

I espoused my ‘X’  theory to colleagues at the last meeting without fully formulating my argument.

I also did not explain with enough clarity and detail the reasoning behind my assumptions.

However, if we start at the beginning again here is my theory of a writers reason d’etre in two parts:


Part 1 – First Person Singular

If a mouse sat up and barked would that make him a dog?

If a cat spoke in Mandarin would that make him Chinese?

I would argue creative writing cannot be taught; merely nurtured, encouraged, trained and honed if the talent, knack, gift of story-telling, call it what you will, is innate to the student.

That may sound controversial; even dismissive and elitist but it is not said in malice. It is merely a statement of empirical fact, made by someone with his nose pressed against the literary pane, fighting desperately to get in.

There are a thousand hacks masquerading as journalists in Fleet Street, as we speak. These are paid professionals all, who write all day, every day, for a living. Busily filling up newspaper columns till the cows come home. They produce prodigious reams of prose that’s printed as gospel every day and avidly consumed by their readers.

If all it takes is the ability to string one word to another and use a key-board – why isn’t every single one of them a best-selling author?

Few have that devine spark; that ‘X’ factor that drives writers along to capture and record a thought or feeling with enough emotional drive and creative talent to win the readers attention first and their hearts second.

That’s called building a readership, a fan-base, a career; and it takes time and dedication.


Part 2 – Present Indicative

If ‘X’ is the unknown, that indefinable unique factor within the author, then we should first take mental stock (especially when we feel doubt-ridden or literally stuck for words).

Be honest with yourself and ask these questions:

Who else but you can tell the story in the first place? (If you don’t write it – who will?)

Who else can best inform the reader that there is a story to tell, if not you?

Your unique perspective, which is different to mine or anyone else’s on the planet, qualifies you to write the story. This is true regardless of whether you are writing fact or fiction.

In the highest sense you owe it to your readers (present and future) to tell the story to the best of your ability and as soon as you are ready, without waiting for devine inspiration.

What if Shakespeare had put off writing Hamlet on a Monday; caught the plague on the Tuesday; and was dead by the Friday (that’s how quickly it took people to die)

Would the world be better off culturally? – of course not.

Bubonic plague was rampantly endemic to Britain during most of his lifetime and besides killing al lot of people, particularly in large cities, it frequently shut down many theatres for twelve months at a time; cutting off people’s incomes.

Remember, Shakespeare didn’t think of himself as a genius, just a struggling writer, the same as all of us.

I admit that all of the above is a blatant application of moral-boosting rhetoric for which I make no excuses.

Nevertheless it is also cold, hard, undeniable fact.

If you have ever sat staring at a blank page not knowing what to say or how to say it, take heart.

You are not alone.

© Chris Owen